Bourgeois Reaction to the Digital Revolution February 25, 2011Posted by Summerspeaker in Technology, The Singularity, Transhumanism.
In You Are Not a Gadget, Jaron Lanier invokes totalitarian collectivism in order to discredit contemporary internet culture and the transhumanist movement. While the book contains a worthwhile critique of the corporations and software developers pulling the strings, Lanier conceives of the problem as a threat to middle-class privilege. The social shift toward free content erodes the position of people such as Lanier who’ve had success selling their ideas in the marketplace.
Ey employs conventional conservative appeals to make this case, most notably in repeatedly describing the horror of the crowd or mob. Great dudes like Einstein drive history, not the ignorant and unruly masses. Those plebeians are running wild in the tubes and disturbing respectable folks! Lanier’s rhetoric here comes out of a long elitist and specifically anti-radical tradition; ey goes so far as to channel Winston Churchill in a Wall Street Journal piece. Eir defense of intellectual property laws serves the interests of eir class under the current circumstances but harms the species as a whole.
This ideology worries me every bit as much as Ray Kurzweil’s – at least Singularitarianism allows for the possibility of a post-scarcity economy and thus an effective end to capitalism. Lanier longs for perpetual competition, hierarchy, and want. I’d rather have a benevolent robot overlord. Thankfully, options exists outside of the status quo. A society based on liberty, equality, and abundance will foster individual fulfillment and expression in a way Lanier’s unimaginative centrism never can. The fact that our current direction worries em gives me hope for the future.